Q and A with Ellie Alexander

91025701_2943387995782566_1758380286954962944_oTitle:  Nothing Bundt Trouble

Author: Ellie Alexander

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Hi Ellie, thanks for accepting my invitation.  Hope that you and your family are sheltering in place and staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.  I am so excited about us readers collaborating with you on a story!  Your followers can vote at your Ellie Alexander Facebook / Instagram / YouTube pages.

A bit of background:  You have written several series, including the Bakeshop mystery series based in Ashland, Oregon, one of the most beautiful places on Earth!  I loved visiting the Ashland Shakespeare Festival when a friend and her family lived in Ashland.  Before you became a mystery author, you wrote a non fiction book about early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  You were also a Speech therapist then a journalist before becoming a full time author.
I love spending time with Juliet Montague Capshaw, better known as Jules Capshaw. I love the relationship between Jules and her mother, Helen.
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 Q:  Was the television series, the Gilmore Girls, the inspiration for your Bakeshop mystery series?
Ellie:
The Bakeshop Mysteries were originally pitched as the Gilmore Girls with murder. The series shares some elements of the Gilmore Girls in the form of a strong mother/daughter relationship, a charming small town, and an eclectic cast of characters.
Q: If not, how did the idea for the Bakeshop mystery series happen? Can you identify one particular moment that inspired the Nothing Bundt Trouble novel? (This new Bakeshop novel will be published in June and readers can pre-order!)
Ellie:
The inspiration for Nothing Bundt Trouble came from Juliet’s past. She lost her dad at a young age, and part of her growth arc has been about her coming to terms with that loss and lingering grief. We have never met her dad, Will, so this book is a flashback to the 1980s. We get to see Juliet as a young child and see Torte, her family bakeshop, at its inception. The book begins with her finding one of her dad’s old journals which pulls her back in time. I really loved writing and researching this book and I hope it will give longtime readers of the series a better understanding of Jules.
Q:  Can you tell me a bit about your personal history as a cozy mystery reader?
Ellie:
I’ve loved mysteries since I was a kid. My mom would take me to the library every Friday and I would come home with a stack of books that I would devour in a matter of days. Some of my favorite early mysteries were Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. One summer when I was in middle school I read all of Agatha Christie’s books and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Q:  What is your favorite book that no one else has heard of?
Ellie:
Hmmm. Good question. Are there any books that no one else has heard of? I would say that one of my favorite series that I read at a young age is The Betsy and Tacy series. Many readers today aren’t familiar with the wonderful series by Maud Hart Lovelace, who used her childhood in Minnesota for the inspiration. They’ve recently come back into print, and I highly recommend them!
Q:  What was the best book gift that you have ever received?
Ellie:
The Dreaming by Barbara Wood. I fell in love with sweeping Australian epic when I was in college and I spent a semester backpacking through Australia and New Zealand. The Dreaming is historical fiction set in the Australian Outback in the late 1800s. It has touches of mysticism and romance. I lost my copy and was disappointed to learn that the book went out of print. I used to search for it in used bookstores and my husband would pay attention because one year for Valentine’s Day he bought me a copy he found online. This was long before the days of online shopping or Amazon. He spent weeks scouring the internet to find it. So romantic!
Q:  Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how)
Ellie:
It’s spring here in the Pacific Northwest, so my ideal reading experience right now is to sit outside on my back deck in the sun with an iced coffee and listen to the birds chirp while immersing myself into a great read!

Q&A with Britta Stromeyer Esmail

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Author:  Britta Stromeyer Esmail

Publisher:  Balboa Books

In your own words, what is Raina’s (un) Happy Birthday about?

Britta:
Raina’s story is about consent and boundaries. It’s ok to say no to those you love. It’s ok to express love in different ways. If we can teach kids to speak up in uncomfortable situations where stakes are high (family for example) they may feel more comfortable doing so in other situations.
As caregivers, we search for creative ways to allow kids to express themselves. For most children reading a book about a character they can identify with gives them options to express how they are feeling and find their own ways.

How did the idea for your book happen?  Can you identify a moment that inspired this story or did it grow and develop over time?  Did you co-write this book with your daughters?

Britta:
I think this story was always inside of me but it wasn’t until the rise of the MeToo movement that I thought there was something missing in the discussion. We need to teach kids early about speaking up and setting boundaries.
My kids were a big part of the revision process. I am a strong believer in testing your audience. Some of their ideas made it into the book.
Can you tell me a bit about your history as a reader?  What was your favorite children’s book as a young child?
Britta:
I grew up in Germany, many of my favorite children’s book authors at the time were European writers like Michael Ende, Astrid Lindgren, Heinrich Hoffmann, Erich Kästner, Wilhelm Busch and of course Grimm fairytales.
What is your favorite book that no one else has heard of?
Britta:
Ask a writer about their favorite book and they will ask “which genre?” I think my favorites depend on the season and what I am working on in my own writing at the moment.
However, one of my favorite children’s books that not many have heard of, unless they grew up in Germany, is MOMO by Michael Ende. It was published in the 1970s and is about the concept of time, consumerism and stress adults engage in. These are big concepts for a children’s story but the way Ende rendered it, a mystery surrounding a little unusual girl named Momo, is masterful.
What is the best book gift that you have ever received?
Britta:
A notebook.

Q and A with Rhys Bowen, author of The Last Mrs. Summers

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The Last Mrs. Summers (Royal Spyness #14)

Published by Berkley Books, Hardcover, 304 pages

Thank you for giving me an interview.  I have been a fan of your novels since I discovered them at your mystery novels panel at my local bookstore.  I have read ALL of your series, from Constable Evans to Molly Murphy to Her Royal Spyness.  And you wrote several historical fiction novels, including a recent novel, ABOVE THE BAY OF ANGELS.  Your next HER ROYAL SPYNESS novel will be published in August 2020.  THE LAST MRS. SUMMERS .

It’s wonderful spending time with Lady Georgie.  I love spending time with Lady Georgie and reading about her adventures. 

If you were meeting Lady Georgie for the first time in person, what would your first impression be?

Rhys Bowen:

Tall, slim, blonde, looks aristocratic with fine bones, but her smile would be a little unsure of herself and you could tell that she had a sense of fun.

Rhys:

In your own words, what is THE LAST MRS. SUMMERS about?

Anyone who has read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca will appreciate this story as this story is a complete homage/ spoof.  Georgie and (her best friend) Belinda will find themselves in a creepy country house with an even more creepy housekeeper and a first wife who died in suspicious circumstances and an aura of doom surrounding the second wife.  Of course, nothing will turn out to be anything like Rebeccabut it certainly was fun to write.  And it is set in Cornwall, a county I know and love, spending time there every summer with John’s sister (who lives in a big, creepy country house).

Can you tell me a little bit about your personal history as a mystery reader?

Rhys:

I started off devouring the Famous Five books when I was about ten years old.  They were a group of children who solved mysteries while on camping trips and other adventures.  Then I moved on to Agatha Christie and the Ladies of the Golden Age.  it was only when I discovered Tony Hillerman that I realized what a mystery novel could be: not only a good puzzle but a book that took you somewhere, revealed the mind of very different people.  I was absolutely hooked and tried to emulate that in my own novels.

What was the seed for THE LAST MRS. SUMMERS story?  Can you identify one particular moment that inspired this story or did it grow and develop over time?

Rhys:

See my answer above.  Rebecca was probably one of the first adult books I read and it made such a big impression.  If any book deserves the title “atmospheric”,  that is it!

What is your favorite book that no one else has heard of?

Rhys:

No one else has heard of?  In my experience the mystery community is so well read that any book I choose will be known to several people.  One of my favorite very old books is OUR HEARTS WERE YOUNG AND GAY, written by Cornelia Otis Skinner back in the 1920s—a really funny account of two girls let loose in Europe.

 

 

 

 

Q and A with Charles Todd, authors of A DIVIDED LOYALTY

 

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A DIVIDED LOYALTY (Inspector Ian Rutledge #22) by Charles Todd

Hardcover:  336 pages

Publication:  4 February 2020 by William Morrow

Q and A with Charles Todd, authors of the Ian Rutledge series and the Bess Crawford series.  The authors are a mother and son writing team, Caroline and Charles, based on the East Coast of the United States.

Since I read history at University, I have always been interested in reading historical novels, including historical mysteries.   I have been a fan of your books since I saw your blurbs on other novels written by my favorite authors.  I often look at blurbs and discover new authors that way.

For me, this story, which occurs at the end of the Great War. is a wonderful combination of history and mystery.

In your own words, what is the underlying theme of A DIVIDED LOYALTY ?

Caroline and Charles: This is best answered together. The theme of the book of course was loyalty—to the living or the dead—to one’s duty or one’s career—to the one or the many. How does someone choose, when faced with such a dilemma?  And once that choice has been made, what is the price one must pay for making it? We found that fascinating and challenging to explore.

Could you tell me a bit about your personal history as a mystery reader?

Caroline:  

My father read Poe’s THE GOLD BUG to me as a child, and then followed it with TREASURE ISLAND. I was hooked! As soon as I could read for myself, I devoured Poe, Christie, Conan Doyle, and then moved on to every mystery title I could find. Historical mysteries, spy novels, adventure, I loved them all. I think it was the excitement of the mystery that appealed to me in the beginning, but as I read more, it was the construction, the puzzle, the WHY of it, that I enjoyed as well. I could travel the world in a book long before I could travel on my own—I could revisit history in a book long before I could see those places for myself.

Charles:

My mother read to us in turn. And I expect it was her enthusiasm for the mystery that appealed to my sister and to me. Conan Doyle and Christie, Robert Louis Stevenson, to start, and by that time, we too were reading on our own. I liked the puzzle, I liked to follow the clues and the investigation. I also loved biographies, and reading those helped develop my insight into characters. It was great fun, and I never dreamed I’d end up writing mysteries of my own. The surprising thing is that Caroline and I both loved history as well as mysteries, which was one of the reasons we decided to see if we could write together. 

 

What was the seed of  the idea for A DIVIDED LOYALTY?  Can you identify one particular moment that inspired this story or did the story grow and develop over time?

Caroline:

We had visited Avebury before, but at the time we were already working on a different setting for another book. Still, it captured our imagination, and so when we were there again recently, we knew the time had come to put Avebury in a Rutledge mystery. There are many stones still standing there, but one in particular looms over you like a veiled and hooded figure. Benevolent in the sunlight but malevolent by moonlight. It was the beginning, the perfect place to leave a body. 

Charles:

That was the setting.  Next came the people. We asked ourselves, what is it about this setting, the isolation, that would bring a victim here? What would drive that killer to murder?  And as we talked about the murder itself, we realized that the reason for it had threads that led to all sorts of possibilities. That was where the theme of loyalty arose.  As we developed it, our excitement grew, because it worked so well with the characters and the setting. 

What is your favorite novel that no one else has heard of?

Caroline and Charles: 

We would both say “A PRAYER FOR THE DYING,” an early Jack Higgins.  It gave us both a different view of a murderer. And that in the long run changed how we would see our own mystery novels. The killer was a “real person” in the sense that you could understand why he had killed. He wasn’t a drug lord or serial killer, he had an actual reason for what he’d done, and it made him a far more interesting character, a better foil for those trying to catch him.  And so our own murderers are ordinary people faced with a terrible dilemma, where the only choice open to them is to kill. As a result, they are more challenging to write about! And—we hope—more interesting to read about. 


What would you like the reader to know about Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard?

Caroline:

I think it’s his compassion that draws me to him. He has always believed that someone ought to speak for the victim, the dead. When he was promoted from the Met to Scotland Yard as an Inspector, he took his work seriously, searching for answers—the right answer, not just the convenient one. He looks at the victim, at the people who knew him or her, and at the circumstances surrounding the murder, then follows where that leads him. It makes him far more interesting to write about. And more challenging, because he’ll take risks to get at the truth. 

Charles:

By the end of the Great War, Rutledge has been through hell in the trenches. It has changed him, in many ways. He knows more about death first hand. He’s had to kill. And he’s come home to hunt down killers once more. For Rutledge it’s become even more personal. And I think it’s really fascinating to see post-war England through his eyes as he does his duty. War didn’t put crime on hold. And peace has been bought at horrendous cost. That’s the world he lives and works in. 

 

 

 

 

 

My new idea….

How are you?  We are hanging in there.  Shelter in place is a new experience for us.

Speaking of books, I have been sending emails to different authors, asking them if they would like to be interviewed for my book blog.

Several authors have already said yes to yours truly.

Stay posted….

Strange Times

March has been full of surprises!  When we first heard about the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us did not realize how serious this was.  I started to worry a bit earlier than others.  I thought that the Left Coast Crime conference in San Diego would be cancelled.  Up to the minute my plane departed for San Diego, I seriously thought the journey would be cancelled.  I had this vision of the airport gate sign “All flights cancelled because of the pandemic”.  To my surprise, I walked through security to the gate and got on the plane!  We got emails from the conference organizers saying that the conference was still going ahead.  During the short time I was in San Diego, I met a friend for dinner and we celebrated our birthdays.  I also saw many old friends and met new friends at the conference.  After I arrived home from San Diego, I learned that the conference was cancelled on the order from the City.  While I was on the plane enroute home, I used disinfectant on everything around me.  I asked for an apple juice WITHOUT ice.

Regarding my reading, I picked up many free books at the conference!  My friend sent many books home for me so that I would not have to carry them on the plane.  Despite having so many books that I wanted to read, I just could not focus on reading at all!  The first book that I was able to maintain my focus was THE GIRL WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS by Matt Haig.  After that, I got my reading mojo back!  I read a debut novel (THE TROUBLE WITH MURDER) of a new series by Kathy Krevat.   Both books were excellent!  I finally finished THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE by Carolyn Keene, which was a re-read since I read the book many years ago.  I finished two books that I borrowed from the library, which I will return as soon as the library re-opens.  The book drop is locked.  THE KING’S JUSTICE by Susan Elia Macneal and TRACE ELEMENTS by Donna Leon were excellent reads!  After the shelter in place, I wanted to support local businesses.  I ordered books from Mrs. Dalloway’s, A Great Good Place for Books, and several other indie bookstores.  I ordered TELEPHONE LINE by Julie Mulhern.  Another excellent read!  And I read an advanced copy of FAST GIRLS by Elise Hooper.  Maybe I will finish the Agatha Christie 2020 pick for March today?

MARCH BOOKS:

A DIVIDED LOYALTY (Ian Rutledge series) by Charles Todd 

SUCH A FUN AGE (Reese’s Book Club pick) by Kiley Reid 

And all of the books mentioned above.

 

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